Study: US Methane Emissions 50% Higher Than EPA Estimate

Nov. 25 2013

51143701An oil rig pumps near the hills of California’s Wind Wolves Preserve.

A new study out on Monday says that the United States’ is emitting far more of the greenhouse gas methane than previously thought. The study, published by the National Academy of Sciences, estimates that in 2008 the US emitted 50 percent more methane gas into the atmosphere than was previously thought by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The new data indicates that methane could be a bigger challenge in combating global warming than scientists previously thought, according to the Associated Press. Here’s more from the AP:

Methane is 21 times more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, the most abundant global warming gas, although it doesn’t stay in the air as long. Much of that extra methane, also called natural gas, seems to be coming from livestock, including manure, belches, and flatulence, as well as leaks from refining and drilling for oil and gas, the study says.

The new research, NBC News reports, “is based on atmospheric methane measurements taken from the top of telecommunications towers that stick more than 1,000 feet into the air as well as from airplanes.”

20 facts about Ocean Acidification

In early October, Washington Sea Grant released 20 Facts About Ocean Acidification–the product of a collaboration between WSG, NOAA, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, Plymouth Marine Labs and other international partners. Feedback on this initial document has helped us improve the precision of the facts, resulting in this November 2013 update:

OA20Facts

Carbon taxes? Inslee wants a look

 

By John Stang, crosscut.com

Gov. Jay Inslee wants a climate change panel to consider a cap-and-trade program on industrial emissions and a carbon tax to be sent to the Washington Legislature as recommendations.

Meanwhile, the panel’s two Republican members want the economic costs of any climate change-related proposals researched before any are adopted.

The panel met Monday in Olympia with each of its five members — Inslee, two Republican legislators and two Democratic legislators  — saying what he or she wants explored more. “My concerns is that we go forward without determining the costs to the the people of Washington state of going forward,” said panelist Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale.

“We’re going to look for the single most cost-effective way of doing this,” Inslee said.

Inslee wants the upcoming recommendations to come with the best available estimates of how much carbon emissions each will trim from the state’s long-range greenhouse-gas picture. That is to ensure that the panel’ meets the goals set by a 2008 law.

In 2008, Washington’s Legislature set a goal of reducing the state’s greenhouse emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, with further trimming of emissions to 25 percent below Washington’s 1990 level by 2035 and to 50 percent below by 2050. So far, nothing has happened. Early this year, Inslee successfully lobbied the Legislature to set up a task force to map out how those goals can be reached. The task force is supposed to have recommendations for the state Legislature by Dec. 31.

“Failure is not an option to meeting these legislatively mandated goals,” Inslee said.

Read more here

Carbon pricing is catching on around the globe — just not in Washington, D.C.

June 5, 2013  By John Upton

More than 40 national governments and 20 states or other “sub-national” governments are now charging polluters for emitting greenhouse gases, or plan to start in the coming years, according to a new report from the World Bank.

The U.S., of course, is not one of the countries with a national cap-and-trade plan or carbon tax, but California and parts of New England are pushing ahead despite Congress’ refusal to act.

All in all, about 7 percent of the world’s greenhouse gases are now priced — the equivalent of 3.3 gigatons of carbon dioxide out of the total 50 gigatons emitted annually worldwide. Not a lot. But, says the report, “If China, Brazil, Chile, and the other emerging economies eyeing these mechanisms are included, carbon pricing mechanisms could reach countries emitting 24 [gigatons of CO2 equivalent] per year, or almost half of the total global emissions.”

From The Washington Post:

The World Bank report also notes that many cap-and-trade programs are beginning to join together — California is partnering with Quebec, and the E.U. has joined up with Switzerland — which, in theory, should make it easier for companies to make the easiest cuts first. And many programs are trying to expand coverage. Australia and Korea are hoping to get 60 percent of their emissions covered, while California is aiming for 85 percent.

That said, the World Bank concludes that there hasn’t been nearly enough progress to avoid the worst effects of global warming. “The current level of action puts us on a pathway towards a 3.5–4°C warmer world by the end of this century, [which] would threaten our current economic model with unprecedented and unpredictable impacts on human life and ecosystems in the long term.”

Read more here

West Coast climate ‘action plan’: A carbon tax?

   Seattle PI

A trio of West Coast governors and a Canadian premier on Monday signed a “Pacific Coast Action Plan on Climate and Energy,” described with great hyperbole as a comprehensive and far-reaching “strategic alignment” to promote clean energy and curb climate change.

The states of California, Oregon and Washington, together with British Columbia, would constitute the world’s fiftieth largest economy in a mythical “Ecotopia.”  By “joining forces,” tweeted Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, “We intend to design the future, not wreck it.”

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark:  She looked like a loser, and won.

British Columbia Premier Christy Clark:  She signs climate Action Plan with West Coast governors, while boosting location of liquid natural gas export terminals up and down the B.C. Coast.

The action plan announcement said that California and British Columbia will maintain their existing carbon-pricing programs and respective clean-fuel standards, while Washington and Oregon move to adopt similar programs.

British Columbia Environment Minister Mary Polak told The Globe and Mail that Washington and Oregon will soon move to a carbon pricing system similar to B.C.’s seven-year-old carbon tax.

Inslee has a task force on climate change at work. It held a packed public meeting last week in Seattle.

Cross-border agreements are nothing new, and do not always live up to the highfalutin’ rhetoric of signing ceremonies and news conferences.

A much-touted oil spill cleanup plan of the late 1980s served mainly to clean up spills on the coffee table in the ante room of the B.C. premier’s office in Victoria.

But the politicians were waxing eloquent on Monday.

Read more here

Read the Pacific Coast Climate Action Plan Here

Ocean acidification is most urgent threat to marine conservation

By Bill Dewey

November 6th, 2011

THE Taylor family has farmed shellfish in Puget Sound for over a century. The business now faces a challenge to its very existence that we didn’t even know about until five years ago: ocean acidification.

Seawater upwelling on Washington’s coast at times is so corrosive that the shells of oyster larvae dissolve faster than they can form. Recent research shows that the shifting chemistry of seawater impacts far more than oysters. Increasing acidity can deform, stunt, disorient and even kill a number of species throughout the marine food web, from tiny plankton to scallops, crabs and fish. Understanding how these corrosive waters impact the ocean’s ability to produce food is a pressing global security issue.

If we don’t begin addressing ocean acidification promptly, the future of shellfish farming and the entire seafood industry is at stake. On our current path, we are consigning our heirs to a world of increasing scarcity and conflict over ocean resources.

Are we up to it? The tools we need already exist. We can prevent many of acidification’s worst consequences by embracing proven and often profitable strategies to increase energy efficiency, manage fossil-fuel emissions and limit nutrient runoff. We can reduce harm to seafood supplies through scientific monitoring and research. These are all things we can do locally and make a difference.

In the open ocean, acidification results from emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) that mix into seawater. The oceans absorb about a quarter of the 70 million tons of CO2 we emit every day. This forms carbonic acid. The acid thins the ocean’s naturally rich soup of carbonate, the basic construction material used by many marine organisms to build shells, skeletons and reefs. Along our coasts, human activities amplify these changes by increasing runoff of soil, fertilizer and animal wastes, triggering hypoxia and acidification in many bays and estuaries where we grow shellfish.

For Taylor, acidification is not a future threat estimated by modeling or projections. It’s here now. During 2007-2009, our oyster larvae production declined up to 80 percent. Other West Coast operations were also decimated. At the Whiskey Creek Hatchery in Netarts Bay, Ore., oyster larvae dissolved in their tanks.

By monitoring water chemistry we’ve learned to avoid and buffer corrosive waters — restoring a good portion of our production, for now. We’re fortunate that we have the ability to control the seawater chemistry for our baby oysters in our hatcheries. The picture is not so rosy for critters that must survive in the increasingly acidic ocean.

At Taylor, we feel like the proverbial canary in the coal mine, with a twist: After getting knocked down, we lived to sing. Having seen the impact of high-CO2 waters we feel some responsibility to speak out and make others aware of the serious and only recently understood consequences of continued high carbon emissions on the ocean.

We are fortunate that Seattle is a hub of work on ocean acidification. An international seafood industry study group run by the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership is based here. NOAA’s principal scientist on the issue, Dr. Richard Feely, is at Sand Point. The University of Washington’s Terrie Klinger leads studies on how acidification’s effects might be mitigated. Former 3rd District Congressman Brian Baird was the most knowledgeable representative in Congress on this issue and continues his interest.

All our efforts at marine conservation and resource management will prove inadequate if we don’t tackle the most basic problem of all — ocean acidification.

Bill Dewey is communications and policy director for Taylor Shellfish Farms, based in Shelton, Wash., the largest producer of farmed shellfish in the U.S.

What we can do about ocean acidification and climate change

This op-ed is written jointly by the CEO of one of the largest shellfish growers (a close partner in our work) and the chairman of Washington’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Ocean Acidification:

October 9th, 2013. Special to The Seattle Times

Meeting the challenge of ocean acidification will require action at a level not yet seen from government, industry and individuals, write guest columnists Jay Manning and Bill Taylor.

The Seattle Times’ recent outstanding series on ocean acidification “Sea Change” stands as an uncomfortably vivid warning that our marine world — and the economies and lifestyles that depend on it — is under siege.

The images of coral reefs and oyster larvae ravaged by ocean acidification provide haunting notice to Northwest residents of the consequences of inaction.

Though the perils of ocean acidification are well-documented, reading this series prompted anew the questions, “What can we do and how can we prevent this from happening?”

The Pacific Northwest has some outstanding leaders and scientists on the cutting edge of addressing ocean acidification. Because of their actions, the region is not starting from square one.

The 2012 Washington State’s Ocean Acidification Blue Ribbon Panel identified a series of concrete steps that were codified in Executive Order 12-07 by former Gov. Chris Gregoire.

The Washington Legislature has also taken some critical first steps on this issue, providing funding in July to establish an Ocean Acidification Center at the University of Washington and the Washington Marine Resources Advisory Council. Created within Gov. Jay Inslee’s office, this Council, among other things, will advise and work with UW and others to conduct an ongoing analysis on the effects and sources of ocean acidification.

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., has taken the lead in Washington, D.C., securing federal support to help Washington’s shellfish industry monitor and adapt to the corrosive seawater conditions and making sure the nation’s top marine scientists are thinking about the next steps.

Read more here